It’s a new year and a new spirit pervades the land. Nowhere is that sense of innovation and imagination, of bold ideas and daring leaps into the further reaches of artistic realms, more in evidence than in Hollywood.
Here’s a look at some of the films coming our way between now and May – a veritable flood of forward-thinking, radically uncompromising dramas, comedies, romances and thrillers.
Fifty Shades of Grey (Feb. 13) The Valentine’s Day gift that 100 million fans of E.L. James’ erotica tomes have been waiting for – with Jamie Dornan as the handsome businessman with a bit of a bondage-and-domination thing going and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, the innocent student sent to interview him for the college paper. R
Kingsman: The Secret Service (Feb. 13) Colin Firth camps it up as a Bond-ian super spy who recruits a protege (Taron Egerton) to battle a villain (Samuel L. Jackson). The espionage send-up is an adaptation of the “Secret Service” comics. R
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What We Do in the Shadows (Feb. 13) From the band Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement, a mockumentary about three Kiwi flatmates who happen to be vampires. Winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. No MPAA rating
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Feb. 20) A sequel to 2010’s thought-provoking, existential science fiction masterpiece. In this one, an intended trip back into the past inadvertently lands the Hot Tubbers a decade in the future, and the space-time continuum will never be the same. R
McFarland, USA (Feb. 20) Kevin Costner is a high school track coach who leads his mostly Latino, all-underdog team to a series of improbable, inspirational cross-country championships. Based on the McFarland (Calif.) High Cougars and their epic late-1980s, um, run. PG-13
Focus (Feb. 27) Will Smith is an ace con man who schools Margot Robbie in the tricks of the trade. A few years later they find themselves on opposite sides of an epic scam. R
Maps to the Stars (Feb. 27) Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson and John Cusack star in David Cronenberg’s dark, dark comedy about the movie biz and the people who inhabit it. R
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (March 6) Who could have predicted that a cozy comedy about British retirees settling down in a hotel in India would score more than $136 million in worldwide box office? The sequel adds white-maned Richard Gere to the cast, which includes Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy. PG
Cinderella (March 13) Lily James (Lady Rose of “Downton Abbey”) takes the title role in Disney’s live-action retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale. Two reasons this might be good: Cate Blanchett is the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter the Fairy Godmother. The Prince? “Game of Thrones” star Richard Madden. Kenneth Branagh directs. PG
The Divergent Series: Insurgent (March 20) The second installment in the trilogy finds Shailene Woodley’s Tris and Theo James’ Four on the run in post-apocalyptic dystopian Chicago, with Kate Winslett making frowny faces as head of the Erudites. PG-13
Get Hard (March 27) Kevin Hart, playing a hapless car-wash employee, teaches white-collar convicted doofus Will Ferrell how to survive in prison, even though Hart’s character doesn’t have a clue. R
Home (March 27) DreamWorks Animation’s adaptation of Adam Rex’s children’s book, “The True Meaning of Smekday,” is about an alien race that settles on Earth and then tries to re-settle its human inhabitants. One Earthling is voiced by Rihanna, and Steve Martin voices the leader of the extraterrestrials. PG
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (April 17) Of all the sequels of all the hits in all the world, this one – with Kevin James returning as a Segway-riding knucklehead security guard – has got to be the one we’ve all been waiting for. Not yet rated
Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1) A self-aware robot imbued with artificial intelligence and another excuse for Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Iron Man and Thor to reconvene to try to put this metal alloy menace to bed, once and for all.